tue 21/10/2014

Let’s Wrestle, Tigercats, Omi Palone, The Lexington | New music reviews, news & interviews

Let’s Wrestle, Tigercats, Omi Palone, The Lexington

Shoreditch's finest fusion band steal the show

Tigercats: the future of rock? Quite possiblyTigercats: the future of rock? Quite possibly

Twenty-first century rock bands have a problem, and it’s a problem that they’ve had for decades: how to stay focused on the rebel oomph of distorted guitars, rudimentary drumming, sorting-out-the-bottom-end bass guitar and – let’s face it – self-pitying, woefully inadequate but raggedly functional vocals without sounding like a relic from a bygone age? After all, if record shops still existed, most rock bands of recent years would eventually find themselves shelved under the demoralisingly dusty category of “Trad Rock”.

Unfortunately, two of the bands on last night’s triple bill of up-and-coming rock bands would certainly have been filed under this suggested future genre. However, in the middle of the bill were east London’s Tigercats. Certainly not the best band name in the world, but nevertheless one of the best bands currently trying to find an interesting way of transcending rock’s past in order to turn it into a credible contemporary genre. They’ve been compared to Vampire Weekend, but they integrate the sunshine-bright sound of Congolese guitars with the ironic, kitsch, domestic sink world they inhabit as arty Shoreditch student (or ex-student) types, in a much more interesting and vital way than that far too knowing, over-produced New York combo. Tigercats do fusion (for want of a better word) with such panache that it makes you smile rather than wince.

Any song that centres on the angst-inflected repetition of the line 'And I set fire to your sofa' gets my vote

Their songs are wonderful, they work brilliantly as a unit, and they clearly spend a lot of time on their arrangements, so the rest just takes care of itself. Yes, all their greatest influences are worn on their sleeves, even to the extent of listing some of them in the wonderfully emotive “Vapours” (“I dream of an imaginary record shop, staffed by new wave one hit wonders; we got Jonah Lewie, we got Jilted John, we got The Only Ones…”) but they sound no more like these bands than they do other bands you could add to this list such, as Television and Buzzcocks. From mid-tempo gems such as the beautiful lost-love song “Stevie Nicks” (where Tom Verlaine’s influence is particularly apparent) to the indie thrash of “Kim & Thurston”, they remain fresh and vital because of their diverse influences rather than despite them. And any song that centres on the angst-inflected repetition of the line “And I set fire to your sofa” (“Limehouse Nights”) gets my vote.

We can pretty much ignore Omi Palone (the first band on last night’s bill) because they really didn’t bring anything new to the rock table. The vocalist had a two-and-a-half note range and was perhaps trying to channel Ian Curtis, but we’re several decades removed from most of the bands they bring to mind, so listening to them also brought to mind the slowly degrading sound that used to result from the cassette-to-cassette copies of the pre-digital era. Trad Rock, Ghost Rock; whatever you want to call it, it's not for me. So moving swiftly on, we come to Let’s Wrestle. Firstly, what a great name! Is this perhaps a new genre of band name? A name that’s simultaneously an invitation? Answers in the comments section, please.

It has to be said that, round-faced, pudding-basin-haired vocalist Patrick Gonzalez looked a little like Jimmy Osmond circa 1975 in his loud, wide-lapelled check jacket. So it was a bit of a relief when a woman in the audience shouted out “I love your jacket,” and Gonzalez responded, “This is my Jimmy Savile jacket.” You see, it’s hard to work out with these youngsters when they're being post modern and ironic and when they’re being heartfelt and sincere. I suspect that half the time they don’t know themselves. And there lies the problem in this post rock era. We are no longer in the Stones Age, yet young men still fall in love with electric guitars (and who can blame them?)

Irony may have necessarily become the default setting of the serious post-rock band but it’s only when sincerity seeps through the cracks that such bands come into their own. Like Tigercats, Let’s Wrestle have some excellent songs, such as “We Are the Men You'll Grow to Love Soon” which they encored with. But they need to remember that simplicity, wit and sincerity are the key. It’s time they put their dad’s old vinyl LPs aside and found out who they are.

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